Why Short Sales Take So Long: If Banks Ran Restaurants

 

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This is the second of my two part series on why short sales take so long. That first post was very factual and may have lost the less patient readers as it dragged them through the muck that is a short sale. So here is a rewrite of that post from the perspective of eating at a restaurant - something with which everyone can identify - in a Looking Glass world where the banks run all the restaurants.

Background

In this world (let's set the stage in Chicago for fun) there are only 5 restaurants in the entire city. Consequently the restaurants are huge, sprawling over several city blocks with thousands of people coming in to eat every hour. Consequently, the banks have decided to apply their considerable skills to streamline the dining process. You and your family were driving through Chicago when your car broke down and you have decided to eat dinner here. Where you live you have normal restaurants but you have heard that in Chicago things are different.

The Dining Experience

You and your family walk into the restaurant at 5 PM on a Friday night and the first thing you notice is that there are almost no employees to be seen and very few of the tables have food on them. However, there are plenty of phones scattered about so you pick up the first phone you see and you call the number posted nearby. The person at the other end of the phone instructs you to fill out a form, that you can find near the entrance, accompany it with a cover letter, and drop it in a nearby box. The form asks a lot of questions about when you last ate, what you ate, how much you ate, and how hungry you are. In the cover letter you are supposed to explain why you feel the restaurant should feed you. The person on the phone explains that it really helps your case if you are about to die from hunger.

After submitting your paperwork you sit down in the cavernous waiting area with thousands of other people. Periodically a voice comes over the loudspeaker informing some people that the restaurant has rejected their application for dinner while a few others are directed to pick up their approval at the front and go find the table indicated on that approval. After about 3 1/2 hours your name is called, you pick up your approval and you wander around the restaurant by yourself until you finally find your table. As you sit down you notice that the couple at the next table is asleep and the husband looks like he hasn't shaved in a couple of days. You also notice that there is a phone, a scanner/ printer, and a computer at your table.

Ordering Your Meal

Since you haven't really seen any waiters and you don't have any menus you pick up the phone and you call the number listed next to the phone. The person who answers transfers you to the menu delivery department, where they ask you for your dinner approval number and table number. Unfortunately, you wait for about an hour for your menu before you pick up the phone to find out what the holdup is. The person who answers explains that in order to make life easier for the restaurant they have outsourced menu delivery to an outside company (Menu Resolution Corporation: MRC) who only delivers menus every 3 hours and when you sat down you had just missed the 10 PM menu delivery. Your menu should arrive around 1 AM.

When 1:30 rolls around and you haven't received your menu you pick up the phone again and they transfer you to the menu delivery department (MRC), who once again asks you for your dinner approval number:

"Sir, we have no record of a menu request"
"Well, I requested one 3 hours ago"
"I'm sorry, sir. We have no record of such a request"
"OK. When can you bring one over?"
"First, you'll have to order one"
"Fine, then take my order for a menu"
"I'm sorry sir, we are not allowed to take your order for a menu. You'll have to place that order through customer service"

 

You call customer service who promises to expedite your menu delivery. Your menu is delivered at 4:15 AM. After just a few minutes of looking at the menu you are totally confused by the terminology and acronyms. You don't have a direct number for MRC so you call customer service who transfers you there. Once again you are required to provide your dinner approval number before they can answer any questions about the menu. After several minutes of going over the menu you simply ask in frustration:

"Don't you just have hamburgers?"
"Sir, that would be the GBPOB" (her condescending tone is calling you an idiot for not knowing that)
"A GBPOB is a hamburger?"
"Yes, sir. Ground beef pattie on bun."
"Can we order two of those?"
"You'll need to place that order with the restaurant, sir."
"Can you please transfer me?"
"Sorry, sir, but I don't have that phone number"

 

So you call customer service and they inform you that you can not place your order over the phone. There are a stack of food order forms on the table. You need to fill them out, scan them, and upload them on the computer using the restaurant's Hemisphere's System, which vastly simplifies the whole dining experience since it ties together all the 17 different people who will be handling your dining experience this week. Of course, you'll need to set up a Hemisphere's account.

You get as far as setting up your Hemisphere's account when you hit a roadblock. You can not figure out how to get to the upload screen so you call customer service. They inform you that they can not help you since the Hemisphere's system is actually owned and operated by a third party. They give you the phone number for Hemisphere's customer support, which gets you to the next step. By 7 AM you have submitted your food order, which goes into the food order department's queue for review. Let's compress the next several hours of restaurant fun:

  • 8 AM you call customer service to find out where your dinner is. They inform you that your dinner is being prepared.
  • 9 AM you call again and they inform you that there is a problem with the food order that you submitted. When you ask why you weren't notified that there was a problem they tell you that you were notified through Hemispheres. Sure enough, after logging onto the system, you see that you received a message at 7:15 (yeah, check the chronology above) telling you that you forgot to sign your food order. You sign it, rescan it, and re-upload your order.
  • 9:30 AM Just to be safe you call customer service to confirm that they have received your food order. They tell you that they did.
  • 11:30 AM you log into Hemispheres, just to be on the safe side, and sure enough there is a message waiting for you to call customer service. Upon calling customer service you are informed that Mayor Daley, out of frustration with the restaurant situation in Chicago, mandated a new, faster restaurant ordering procedure, code named Miegs, in the middle of the night that all restaurants must now comply with. You must now resubmit your food order using the new process. However, the new food order forms will not be delivered to your table for several more hours.
  • 12:15 PM you call customer service back and ask when the Miegs forms will be delivered. The person anwering the phone has never heard of Miegs and informs you that your food is on it's way to your table.
  • 12:30 PM you begin to suspect that the customer service person you just spoke with didn't know what they were talking about so you call customer service again to find out what is going on. This time the customer service representative tells you that you need to call the Miegs department. They give you the Miegs phone number.
  • 12:45 PM you call Miegs and they tell you they are backed up on order form deliveries. You ask them if they can just email one to you so you can print it out at your table. The Miegs representative informs you that Mayor Daley clearly specified in his new restaurant ordering procedure that the forms must be hand delivered. The forms will be delivered when they can get around to it.
  • 1:45 PM the new food order forms are delivered to your table. You fill out one with your order, scan it, and upload it into Hemispheres. Unbeknownst to you the entire food order department is in a 2 hour meeting regarding the new Miegs order process. They will get to your food order when they get to it.
  • 3:30 PM you get a call from the Miegs department. They inform you that they can not process your food order because you were assigned a "task" in the system and you were supposed to upload your food order under that task instead of uploading it from the document upload page. Although they see your food order in the system they can't forward it to the kitchen. You will need to upload your food order under your assigned task.
  • 3:45 PM you re-upload your food order under the assigned task.

Over the next several hours you periodically check on the status of your food, oblivious to what is going on behind the scenes. However, since the kitchen is in another building and customer service has no way of contacting them they can not tell you what is going on with your food. You log on to the Hemispheres system and poke around until you find the email address and phone number for the chef. However, the chef does not respond to either your emails or your phone calls. You will learn how to communicate with the chef in several hours. In the meantime you decide to take a nap.

Behind The Scenes

Miegs gets around to looking at your food order around 4:30 PM. Fortunately, for you the order passes their 23 point checklist. They forward your order to the kitchen where the GBPOB chef is preparing approximately 532 hamburgers simultaneously. The chef places your bun down on the counter and covers it with a layer of lettuce and tomato. He reaches for the mustard when he realizes that the mustard container is empty. He logs onto Hemispheres and places an order for a mustard refill. The mustard refill order goes to the ingredients department at 5:30 PM. At 6:30 PM the ingredients department sends a dispatcher to the storage room with a consolidated list of 15 ingredients that need to be refilled around the kitchen. The dispatcher collects the ingredients and then walks 10 feet from the storage room to where the chefs are working. The mustard is delivered at 7:00 PM. However, as soon as the chef applies the mustard he realizes that you ordered a cheeseburger and he is out of cheddar cheese. Back to the Hemispheres system to replenish the cheddar cheese supply. At 8:15 PM when the cheddar cheese arrives the chef realizes that the lettuce and tomato have been sitting out for several hours and are rather wilted. He needs to start over.

However, there is an even bigger problem now. The chef also realizes that it has been more than 12 hours since you were originally approved for dinner. In that time period you may have had a snack or even left the restaurant. Therefore, they need you to apply for another dinner approval before he can proceed. Unfortunatly, you don't discover this until you wake up from your nap and log onto the Hemispheres system at 9:30 PM to check on the status of your meal. When you do you find a message from the chef sitting in the Hemisphere's system requesting that you get another approval. You submit your approval request at 10 PM. Your wife reminds you that it is now Saturday night and you were supposed to pick up the car at the repair shop 5 hours ago. Of course, if you had left to do that you would have to start dinner back at the beginning.

At midnight you receive a new dinner approval and you upload it into the Hemispheres system. Since the chef sent you a message through Hemispheres you assume that this is a good way to communicate with the chef so at 2 AM (Sunday morning now) you send him a message requesting an update on your meal but he never responds. You call customer service for an update but they simply tell you that once the chef starts to prepare the food they have no visibility into what is going on.

It turns out that the chef actually completed your meal around 1:45 AM but he has now sent it off to the garnish department. In reality the garnish department simply contacts a third party garnish odering company who places an order for garnish packets from another outside company which hires independent contractors to assemble garnish packets. However, the garnish department is seriously backed up so they can't contact the garnish ordering company until 3 AM, when the following chain of events kicks off:

  • 3:15 AM the garnish ordering company orders the garnish packet
  • 4:00 AM the garnish assembly company contacts Joe Parsley with the request
  • 4:30 AM Joe Parsley puts together several packets consisting of a pineapple slice and a cherry and provides it the assembly company
  • From 4:30 AM until 5:30 AM there is a lot of back and forth between the garnish ordering company, the garnish assembly company, and Joe Parsley about what should be in the packet and how it should be wrapped.
  • 6:00 AM the garnish packet makes it's way up the chain back to the garnish department where the packet is opened and put on your plate.
  • 6:30 AM the meal is sent back to the chef who calls for someone to deliver your meal to you

At 7:00 AM your meal arrives, cold and with wilted lettuce and tomatoes. You eat it anyway and ask for your check.

Since this story got horribly monotonous to both read and write about an hour ago I'll skip the part about why it took an additional 4 hours to pay the bill. Also, in the interest of brevity, I skipped the part about how you had to get a hall pass and walk 6 blocks to go the bathroom a few times while waiting for dinner. Suffice it to say that next time you drive through Chicago you will pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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